Miranda smiled for what felt like the hundredth time that afternoon. Ever since her graduating class had thrown their caps in the air while cheering, she had been pulled from one end of the school to the other for pictures. Her face was starting to feel numb. She didn’t see why her friends were so excited about graduation when, in less than a fortnight, half of them would be shipped off to different parts of the country to pursue their careers. She was going to miss most of them dreadfully.
“Hey, Randy, my folks want to take a couple of pictures with Beth and I. Do you mind?” her friend, Barney asked. He and his twin sister Bethany weren’t going anywhere, which was a relief. They were her closest friends. She also grew quite fond of their parents, who were an eccentric couple; one would have to be to name their kids Barney and Bethany.
She smiled at the twins and waved them off, scowling at them when they shot her pitying looks. Her aunt’s expectancy date was in the next few days, and she had gotten early maternal leave at her doctor’s counsel, and her uncle took a week off since it wasn’t advised for her to be alone. Since minimum movement was a necessity, neither of them could make it to her graduation. She honestly didn’t mind, but it was difficult to convince everyone else. It kind of bugged her that she was standing alone while everyone else was having ‘family-photo-fun’, but she figured it would all be over when she and her friends went out for celebratory drinks.
As deep as she was in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the heavy footsteps drawing nearer and nearer to her until the owner was upon her.
“Mr. Colonomos!” she gasped in surprise. Who would have expected him to show up at her graduation when he had barely said anything to her in the past three months? Miranda almost thought she had imagined that night in his office.
The debonair rake grinned at her, stepping closer, invading her personal space. “I suppose congratulations are in order,” he said in a low voice as he grasped her hand in a gentle, yet firm hold to place a light kiss on the inside of her wrist. One would have to be a fool not to see the sheer possessiveness in that simple peck. Luckily for her, not many people took notice of her. Her train of thought backfired on her when she saw most of the eyes in the car park trained on them. She pulled back her hand lightly, but insistently.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded in a whisper.
He looked amused. “You didn’t expect me to let you spend one of the biggest days in your life alone did you? I’m sorry; I didn’t know whether or not flowers would sit well with you so I came empty handed.”
Miranda couldn’t help being touched at the man’s thoughtfulness. “Thank you, but you really shouldn’t have. I’m not alone, I just...” She trailed off when she noticed the disbelief in his eyes.
What the hell was she supposed to say to the guy when he found her standing alone in a partially crowded car park?
He waved off her excuse and took hold of her elbow. “Never mind, I have arranged for lunch at one of my restaurants.”
“Alexander, I can’t. I made plans with a few of my friends already.”
“Well, tough,” he scowled. “When I arrived, none of those friends were here so you’ll have to postpone.”
The nerve of the man! He said it as if it were the simplest thing. He was obviously accustomed to everyone dropping everything on the schedules for him at the snap of his fingers. Well, tough! She definitely wasn’t one of his lackeys. Before she could open her mouth to argue, however he did something that surprised her. Who would have thought it possible for a thirty-three year old man to perfect the puppy dog eyes routine? She sighed. One meal couldn’t hurt, now could it?
“Let me go get my purse. I left it with a friend of mine to hold it for me.”
Alexander watched with narrowed eyes the young man his Miranda walked up to. He was only four or so inches taller than her, and didn’t stand a chance if he stood next to him. He did not, however, like the easy way Miranda laughed with him. He disliked the familiarity the two of them so obviously shared. He scowled when she pointed over at him to show the friend who she was leaving with. A protective glint came up in the boy’s eyes. He obviously didn’t like the fact that 1miranda was leaving with him. Alexander knew he was trying to talk her out of it, but after a few words of reassurance, the boy reluctantly nodded and handed her purse back to her. The boy opened his arms to hug her goodbye. He gritted his teeth together in anger to keep himself from storming over at the two to rip her from his arms.
When Miranda did return to Alexander’s side, it was to find the familiar brooding figure rather than the slightly more cheerful version she had left behind. She looked in the direction of his glare to see Kenny, one of her classmates. He obviously didn’t like the fact that they had hugged. She grabbed hold of his hand in a slight grip and smiled up at him when he finally looked down at her. “Come on, let’s go.” She didn’t protest when he wrapped an arm around her waist to lead her to where he had parked his car. She stopped dead in her tracks suddenly.
“You brought a limo?” she said in disbelief. He opened the door for her, nudging her in while waving the chauffeur away. He slid in beside her, never once fully breaking contact.
“What’s wrong?” he sounded confused.
“Couldn’t you go with something less flashy?”
“Sweetheart this is the least flashy car I own.”
She wasn’t sure what to say after that. She honestly hadn’t known anyone as arrogant as this man existed. The rest of the drive was completed in silence, yet the whole time he hadn’t let go of her hand or taken his eyes off of her. Every time she happened to look his way she got herself lost in the brooding gaze, and lowered her eyes shyly. She recalled the words he had said to her months ago... I’m obsessed with you... she thought they were ramblings uttered in the heat of the moment. Now she wasn’t so sure.
Alexander led her inside a dimly lit restaurant shortly after. She was a bit curious as to why anyone would keep their lighting to a minimum in the middle of the day, but when she saw how many couples occupied the place she realised it must have been to add the illusion of intimacy. Their table was in a secluded part of the room.
“What’re your plans, now that you’ve graduated?” he asked Miranda after they’d ordered. She was pretty good at reading people’s expressions, but this man was an enigma to her. She didn’t know whether or not he was really interested or just making conversation.
She visibly hesitated before responding, “I might sign up for some program in the UK a few months from now. It lasts almost a year, but it has a lot of exposure so it’s a great career opportunity. I have to think about it, but I’m honestly interested.” When she had finished talking she noticed the frown on his lips. It seemed to dominate his whole face.
“You want to leave the country?” he asked in an incredulous, albeit soft tone.
Miranda swallowed nervously. “I know it’s unexpected, but like I said it’s a great opportunity. And I know my aunt will still be on her maternity leave, but it won’t be difficult to-”
“It’s not about your job, damn it!” he bellowed unexpectedly, slamming a closed fist against the table top violently.
To her credit, Miranda didn’t even flinch, despite the fact that he never lost his temper. She was grateful for being in an isolated part of the restaurant, though. After an uncomfortable stretch of silence, she surprised him by taking hold of the hand he had slammed and checking over it. She brushed her fingertips against the light red patch against his pinkie finger. “It won’t bruise; does it hurt?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“Maybe we should put some ice on it, just in case.”
“Relax, it was just a table.” He hesitated, “I’m sorry for my reaction. I just don’t want to see you go.”
Miranda didn’t know which shocked her more, the admission or the apology. She smiled and brushed a lock of his black hair away from his face, telling him without words that there was nothing to forgive.
“That was fun,” Miranda remarked as they drove away from the restaurant.
“You sound surprised.”
She smiled at Alexander. “It isn’t everyday that your bad boy boss takes you out to lunch.”
“It isn’t everyday you graduate top of your class.” He changed the subject quickly. “Who was that boy you were with?”
Miranda’s only response was to blink, a bit surprised that he had chosen to bring it up now. She knew it had bothered him, but she had never come across anyone so open with their jealousy. “He’s a friend; we took the same classes so it’s not a big deal. There’s no need to be jealous.”
“I am not jealous!” he said, affronted. “I just don’t want to see any man put his hands on you.” Miranda blinked and looked away from his intense gaze, the deep gray of his eyes very reminiscent of dark and stormy clouds. “It has been three months, agapi mou. I believe I have given you enough time to think over what we share.”
“I thought you changed your mind. You never brought it up,” she shrugged, trying and failing miserably at appearing nonchalant.
Alexander laughed a deep, rare and warm guffaw. “You were the one who asked for time, you were supposed to tell me what your decision was, but now that choice is out of your hands.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means, my dear that you now belong to me, and whether or not you want to admit it, it’s something you want as desperately as I do.”
“Whether or not I want it is not what’s in question here. I want to go bungee jumping and airplane diving this summer, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, now does it? The same thing applies to you. I may want you, but quite honestly it isn’t the best thing for me.”
He gave out a sound that sounded close to a growl, and in the blink of an eye she found herself in the same position she was three months ago, right in his lap. “Like I said before, the decision is now out of your hands,” and with a rakish grin, he lowered his head and kissed her. Not just a normal kiss, but one of possession. While the first kiss had been one of promise, he fulfilled that promise with this one. His tongue thrust its way into her mouth to slide against hers, coaxing her into a response. She moaned as she pressed herself fully into Alexander’s heavily muscled figure. She must have been in a daze because she could vaguely remember telling him just minutes earlier that their chemistry was a bad idea, and now she couldn’t pull away from his perfect mouth to save her own life. He was like a drug, Miranda thought as he pushed her graduation robe right off her shoulders to rashly unbutton and part the silky white blouse he found underneath.
“So beautiful,” he murmured, taking a pebbled brown nipple into his mouth before drawing lightly from it. “All mine.” He grinded his jean clad erection frantically against her crotch, and was overjoyed to feel her humping right back. The kiss deepened when he felt her tentatively unbutton the first three buttons of his shirt. Alexander let out a low groan when he felt her tongue brush against hers while she spread one of her small hands against his massive chest, cautiously feeling his steady heartbeat. She snatched both her hands and her mouth away from his when she felt the car roll to a halt.
Miranda righted her clothes as best she could with his intense gray eyes fixed on her. When she finally looked outside the tinted windows, she stiffened. “Alexander... why are we outside your home?”